Hello, everyone, I’d like to welcome my first official guest to Magical Musings, author, Leigh Duncan. I first met Leigh at the Romance Writers of America Conference in Dallas, Texas. She was in the bar area giving away little bags of chocolate covered potato chips (I know!) and I scrambled to get one. I asked her where the delicious potato chips came from and she told me she’d gotten them from a chocolate shop in her hometown of Melbourne, Florida. That’s when I informed her that Melbourne was my hometown too! (although I hadn’t lived there for quite a while) and an instant friendship was forged. Leigh is one of the warmest, funniest women you’ll ever meet. She’s also a pretty darn good writer. This June, her second book comes out and I asked Leigh a few questions that readers and aspiring authors might want to know. So take it away, Leigh!
First, let me say I’m thrilled to join you on Magical Musings. There was a time, not so very long ago, when being interviewed as an author was one of those cross-your-fingers-and-hope dreams. Now that it’s happening, I have to admit, I keep looking over my shoulder, hoping no one taps me on it to say it’s all been a mistake. Like that season on Dallas, when JR….Ooooooh, that really dates me, doesn’t it? Well, before I drift too far down the river of nostalgia, Maria, you had some questions?
Maria: What’s the one, best piece of advice you received that you think help you get published?
Leigh: Wow, there’s been so much! I wrote full-time for years before I got “The Call.” Took a zillion classes. Went to more conferences than I could count. Completed three manuscripts—one a straightforward contemporary romance, and two angst-driven women’s fiction novels—and had a file-drawer crammed full of rejection letters. And I was getting discouraged, you know? I even talked about it with Cyndi D’Alba (RWA’s PRO Liaison who recently sold her first book—yeah, Cyndi!). Anyway, I told Cyndi I was going to give it Just. One. More. Year. But first, I was going to follow some advice from Kathryn Caskie and Sophia Nash.
I met Kathryn and Sophia on a women’s fiction panel at a conference and, while driving them to the airport the next day, Sophia asked why I was writing angsty women’s fiction which, at the time, New York wasn’t buying. They both suggested I try my hand at a light-hearted romance. Said they thought I had “the voice” for it. Well, who was I to argue with award winning, best selling authors? So, before I erased my hard drive and pitched my computer through the window, or tossed all my mechanical pencils (love ‘em!), I gave it one more try. And it worked. The Officer’s Girl, my debut book with Harlequin American Romance, was the result.
So, I’d have to say Sophia and Kathryn’s advice to “try a new direction when the old one isn’t working” was the best writing advice I’ve ever been given. But the next suggestion was nearly as important and came from NYT best-selling author Roxanne St. Claire. After she read the first draft of The Officer’s Girl, Roxanne told me to “aim higher” than the very small publisher I’d targeted. She was the one who pointed me in Harlequin’s direction.
Maria: How is Harlequin American Romance different from the other Harlequin lines?
Leigh: Each of the Harlequin category lines has a different focus, a different appeal. Some, like Blaze, are spicy. Others, like Intrigue, are filled with mystery or suspense. Whatever your interests are, Harlequin has a line for you! I’ve always loved Harlequin Americans because of the strong emphasis on family, marriage and community. Small towns are a favorite with this line. Americans run the gamut from sweet to intensely emotional, but because of their shorter length (60K max), the focus is tightly fixed on the romance.
Maria: Your second book, The Daddy Catch, will be out soon. Tell us a little bit about The Daddy Catch and how you came up with the idea of for the book.
Leigh: Water, water, water. You can hardly get away from wet stuff if you live in Florida. We have so many lakes and rivers, you practically trip over them. And then, of course, there’s the ocean on one side, the Gulf on the other. So, what do you do with all that water? Well, if you’re like me and don’t want to get your feet wet, you fish it.
Now, my idea of fishing is to drop in a baited hook, sit back with a good book, and wait for a tug on the line, but hubby is an avid fly fisher. You can’t live with one of those without learning more than a little about the sport. Plus, when we moved back to Florida after years of living all over the country, one of the first things I noticed was how much the area had grown. Schools and churches lined the stretch of road where I (okay, stupidly) used to hit three digits on the speedometer. Pasture lands were disappearing, replaced by houses with zero lot lines. And some of the area’s prime fishing spots were being destroyed by run-off and over-development.
Those elements combined to build the plot for The Daddy Catch. It’s the story of hunky thoracic surgeon Dan Hamilton, a foster-system success story, whose wildest dreams are practically within reach when a group of fellow doctors invite him to join in building a medical center for the stars on Florida’s east coast. And widowed Jessica Cofer who has just three goals in life—to help her young son grow into an honest man, to keep her fly fishing shop afloat, and to preserve a piece of old Florida as a legacy for her child and the future. More than hooks and lines are in the lesson plans when an upcoming fishing trip with his new business partners forces Dan to hire the feisty fly fishing guide. Their temperatures rise faster than mercury on a summer day…until Jess learns the handsome doctor has his eye on more than her curves—he plans to steal the land from under her feet.
Maria: What’s next for Leigh Duncan?
Leigh:More Harlequin American Romances, of course. I’m working on a couple right now. And, then there’s always that angsty women’s fiction. I’m still hoping to find a home for it one day.
To learn more about Leigh and her books, please visit her website at www.leighduncan.com
Leigh is giving away a copy of The Daddy Catch to one lucky commenter. US only, please! Comments will be accepted till two am Friday, EST. (May 27). The winner will be selected by the random generator and be announced on Friday’s am post.